Scott Brinton

Donald Trump’s sneak attack on Washington


Well, far-left liberals got exactly what they wanted: a caricature of a president against whom a resistance movement could coalesce.

Right-wing conservatives got exactly what they wanted: a tornado of a president, a great disrupter, sent to Washington to shake things up — and muddy the waters.

The extremes are satisfied.

Liberals can recapture a little of that 1960s magic that upended the nation and transformed it into a new and more perfect union. Conservatives can pretend we’re back in the ’50s, when, they wrongly believe, all was right with America. On the American political stage, we are now seeing a battle royal play out.

Trump & Co., it appears, couldn’t be happier. Amid the confusion, it’s easy to sneak through nominees and policies that many, if not most, Americans find distasteful, because no one’s looking.

Case in point: Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s pick for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Senate’s Republican-controlled Environment and Public Works Committee actually suspended its own rules to approve Pruitt without the participation of Democrats, who boycotted the vote. The committee gave Pruitt the thumbs up, 11-0, sending his nomination to the full Senate for a vote. At press time, he was expected to be confirmed.

Amid all the back-and-forth tweeting, you didn’t hear much about Pruitt in the national news. He’s Oklahoma’s attorney general, a staunch climate-change denier and a champion of the oil and gas industry, according to The New York Times and And he was one of President Barack Obama’s most ardent critics when it came to environmental policy, particularly climate policy.

At this point, we all understand the political debate around climate science. The overwhelming majority of credible scientists around the world have concluded through more than a century of research — human-caused global warming was first detected by Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1896 — that people, or more specifically their carbon emissions, are driving climate change, or the steady heating of the Earth’s surface over time.

Progressives (that is, Democrats) accept climate science. Conservatives (that is, Republicans) don’t.

Conservatives acknowledge that the Earth is warming, but slowly, they say, and they believe the planet’s natural cycle of heating and cooling is the primary cause. Yes, humans might — might — play a part in global warming, but not an especially big one, they contend.

So, the conservatives say, we needn’t change the way we produce electricity. We needn’t increase our vehicles’ miles-per-gallon requirements. We needn’t change our habits in any way, shape or form.

Theirs is a very ’50s global view.

Trump is the arch climate change denier. Time and time again he has expressed disdain for climate science — and science in general. That would explain why he selected Pruitt, a man with no science or environmental background — only a loathing for climatology — to head the EPA, which is supposed to protect the Earth.

So, as a nation, we will install someone who has shown no particular love for the planet as our chief environmentalist. And I mean we, as a nation. If you’re on the liberal left and you sat out the November election because you wanted to pick a fight with the right, this is the result. Pruitt will now have nearly four years to dismantle the environmental protections that the Obama administration fought so hard for. Congratulations.

Obama was far from perfect, but he was stymied by a GOP-controlled Congress that refused to compromise and craft legislation to create a national cap-and-trade registry to substantially curtail carbon emissions. So he did what he could— yes, often by executive order.

Here’s the thing: As a nation, we must recognize that the fuel sources that have powered this land for centuries — the first North American coal deposits were discovered in the 1600s — are antiquated. Coal, oil and even natural gas represent the past. Wind, solar and geothermal energy are our future.

That’s a hard argument to accept. Most people don’t like change. Change causes disruption and uncertainty. There are winners and losers.

In this case, wind and solar companies will be winners. Coal miners won’t. They’ll lose their jobs — and their livelihoods. They’ll lose their very way of life.

Coal mining has its traditions, passed down from generation to generation. But it is a diminishing industry. In the early 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Americans were employed as coal miners. According to, there are now about 80,000 miners, in part because new technologies have supplanted coal and in part because mechanization has displaced workers.

Obama strategically perpetuated the lie that there’s such a thing as “clean coal” technology to win Pennsylvania, America’s fourth-largest coal producer. It worked.

Hillary Clinton didn’t — and she lost Pennsylvania, one of three key states that she needed to secure the election. Meanwhile, Trump masterfully played to disaffected coal miners who feared for their jobs.

No doubt, we need to re-educate coal miners in alternative-energy technologies so they can secure their futures — and all of our futures.

Amid the rancor, however, is anyone — on either side of the political aisle — truly listening? That’s the question that I hope haunts liberals, with all their talk of noble resistance.

Scott Brinton is the Herald Community Newspapers’ executive editor and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Herbert School of Communication. Comments about this column?